What’s next for historic Addison Town Hall?

Published: Apr. 27, 2023 at 11:53 PM EDT
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ADDISON, Vt. (WCAX) - Addison voters last fall approved a $2 million bond measure for repairs of their original Town Hall, but no work has been started yet on the 150-year-old structure.

Some people say the progress has been intentionally delayed by selectboard members, while others say town officials are just doing their due diligence. One of the plans on the table is to go back to using the building as a town office and community space.

“My interest dates back to when I was a young kid. We used to have dances here,” said longtime resident Linda Taft. “I watched it through the years deteriorate. I’m just hopeful the selectboard will see a way to progress.”

Selectboard Member Peter Briggs says while there isn’t a guarantee, the hope is for the town offices to move back in as well as create community space. “There’s been a lot of obstacles along the way that have gotten taken care of so far and they’re not over,” he said.

He says most of the issues are being taken up by a facilities study committee which was tasked with answering two major questions. One, is whether to apply for a zoning exception to allow an addition past the setback in order to bring it up to code. There’s little to no way to move forward without it because of the Americans with Disabilities Act and fire code compliance.

“At this time, the selectboard has not made the application and expressed concerns about the application, specifically the variance,” said Levi Barrett, a member of the facilities committee.

The fact there hasn’t been an application has people worried if the project is really moving forward. But Briggs assures that it is. “This is just part of the process. There really isn’t a hold-up on the selectboard part,” he said. “We’re just doing the best making sure everybody in town has a project that works best for everybody in town.”

The other looming question is whether moving the town offices is necessary now that the town owns the former Addison Central School, which would cost much less to renovate.

However, John Spencer, who was on the initial Town Hall Committee has concerns about the school being used for the town offices. In a letter to the secretary of state, he said voters were misled when voting on the bond, saying in part:

“The Selectboard, however, maintains that the Town voted on a dollar amount to be spent rehabilitating the Town Hall building and that we did not vote on how the building would be used. This is not in good faith with the voters who had the reasonable impression that they were voting on what was presented in the material that accompanied the bond mailer.”

Either way, Briggs said it’s unlikely the building would ever fall into disrepair. ”No matter what, we have a $2 million bond and it’s clear people want us to do something with it,” Briggs said. “But if we open it either way, ADA is clear, a significant amount of money is going to be spent on that.”

Briggs says it could be up to six months before the selectboard has all of the information to decide how to move forward.

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